|Av Bennett has been a running and ball hawking presence for undefeated Bishop Diego. The 6-0 Cardinals take on another unbeaten from Fresno County, Immanuel of Reedley, on Friday, Oct. 16 at La Playa Stadium (photo credit Janice Graham).|
They come with religious backgrounds, power running attacks and no losses so far this season.
Immanuel of Reedley (6-0) and Bishop Diego of Santa Barbara (6-0) will meet in a key Central Section versus Southern Section battle on Friday, Oct. 16 at picturesque La Playa Stadium in the 805.
One of these teams could be a section title holder in their respective divisions. Here’s a closer look at the contest:
ABOUT THE EAGLES: The theme this year for Immanuel is “Finish.” It’s the hashtag used for the Eagle football accounts on Instagram and Twitter, which means finish the season as a section champion.
Last year’s team lost 44-16 to Corcoran in the Division V title game. This year’s team has averaged 34.5 points per game on offense with a running back committee.
Junior Kyle Dunnigan is the top back with 415 yards and six touchdowns. Versatile senior Ryan Case gives the Eagles a dangerous outside element with 147 yards on 11 carries and three touchdowns. Case averages 13.4 yards per carry. Junior Bryhan Cantu adds to the Eagles’ ground-and-pound approach with 98 yards on 20 carries for an average of 4.9 yards per carry.
Senior quarterback Caleb Paulson – who split playing duties with Aaron Daggs last season – has guided an efficient Eagle air attack with 1,232 yards, a 58% completion percentage, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. His top receiver is Chris Rosedale, who has 21 catches for 444 yards and five touchdowns. John Gurrola adds to Immanuel’s receiving core with an average of 16.2 yards per catch.
Defensively, linebacker Andrue Lackey is tops with six tackles behind the line of scrimmage despite battling injuries this season. Four-year varsity starter Cody King leads Immanuel with 40 tackles and an average of 13.3 per game. Case is the top ball hawk in the secondary with three interceptions.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS: Fast starts are nothing new for Bishop Diego. Since 2012, BD has begun the year at 6-0 or better under head coach Tom Crawford.
Three running backs power the inside game for BD. Michael Sorracco leads the Cards with 504 yards on 87 carries and has muscled his 210-pound frame to nine scores. Rising sophomore John Harris – who’s built like a possession wide receiver at 6-foot-2, 195-pounds – has stretched defenses out to the tune of 281 yards on 39 carries and five touchdowns in five games. Av Bennet not only gives BD quality depth in the backfield with 198 rushing yards, he’s also a playmaker at strong safety.
Linebacker Matt Shotwell is the Cards’ defensive leader with 90 tackles, 64 solo stops and has two sacks. Sophomore Dylan Streett is a long, rangy safety at 6-foot-2, 175-pounds and has two picks this season.
The Cardinals took last year’s meeting at Reedley 20-17 in overtime.
BEST MATCHUP: Caleb Paulson versus Av Bennett. Paulson has been a reliable game manager while Bennett is a threat to score a pick six anytime he hits the field. Even though Immanuel doesn’t throw the ball much, Paulson has to account for Bennett whenever he’s asked to deliver strikes down the field.
DON’T SLEEP ON: Ryan Case. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior captain is a do-everything weapon for Immanuel. He has 288 all-purpose yards and a team-high three interceptions so far in 2015-16.
GAME INFORMATION: Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.